Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Culinary Question

Small mixing bowl
 We are planning a holiday gift package that will include a small, handled mixing bowl, a handmade wooden spoon (made by Mike, not me!), and a bag of wheat from our farm. This morning I made up a batch of pancakes (the recipe we are thinking to put with the package) in one of the prototype bowls from the last firing. The bowl measures about 6 inches across the top and is about 4 1/2 inches tall.
Room left at the top of the bowl with completed recipe inside
Everything went in well, nothing really splashed or "foofed" out of the bowl while I whisked the ingredients in, but I wondered whether it needed to be wider at the top or perhaps a smidge taller. So my culinary question to those who like to play in the kitchen - would the1 1/2 or so inch space left at the top when finished mixing bother you, or would you typically want more room for mixing in a bowl? Thoughts? Suggestions? The catch is that we'd like to keep the price point down, so I cannot make a giant bowl, and I don't think small handled mixing bowls should really be that large anyway, but any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Opening the Kiln

Opening a kiln after the firing is always fascinating because you get to see things in layers as the bricks come down from the top to the bottom. I have a hard time resisting pulling pots immediately once I can reach them in order to have a photo like the one above with, well, most of the pots still in there (I'll admit to some back-of-the-stack swiping).

Once again the back corner was the hottest area in the kiln and had some great ash coverage. This also means the shelves are going to have to have a good cleaning (not my favorite task!).
The front corner was pretty dry again, and did not hit cone 10. I think I am going to make it more spaced out in that corner to get more air flow and try out some glazes.
Big decorated pot

I finally got around to firing a big pot I made while working with Joseph Sand last winter. It's been sitting for a little while, so I was glad it didn't break and was pleasantly surprised at how vivid the blue turned out! All of these pots are out just in time for the Triad Pottery Festival this weekend at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market! We'll be there on Saturday at the farmer's market from 6am-12:00 with fresh flour, produce, and pottery, and then I will be there on Sunday for the pottery show. Come visit!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kiln Baking

 Perhaps it was the anticipation of a tasty snack after the kiln, or perhaps the excitement of trying something different. Either way, following the kiln firing today I took some biscuits I made with sausage patties I cooked last night and slices of cheese, wrapped them in aluminum foil, and baked them in the firing ports of the kiln.
 "How long do you bake a biscuit at 2000 degrees?" you might ask, well, not very long, and you should really flip it not just rotate it because the bottom gets a little too toasty.
I finished loading the kiln on Saturday, and we started it Saturday evening at around 7:00 pm. We wanted to try a different firing schedule. I also modified the exit flue in the back of the chimney by putting a row of bricks down the center to cut down on the airflow. I think this helped in the case of wood consumption and temperature climbing, but may have added to the increased reduction that I saw in comparison to the last firing.
We very professionally kept track of the temperatures by marking up a piece of wood with the temperature climbing. What fascinates me is that I could have had the kiln to temperature and probably salting by 8-9:00 in the morning, but because I was alone at the time and not expecting others to arrive for a while, I had to maintain and stall the climb. So it was nice to know that I can get the kiln rolling and possibly finished in under 15 hours, and that is with single firing. Here are some peeks into the kiln during the crash cool:
Ash covered wine cups

Cobalt blue decoration

Outline of an ornament

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fredericksburg Kiln Site

Sherds from the Fredericksburg site. From article:
Some very exciting news from the Fredericksburg, Virginia area! A recently discovered kiln site in Fredericksburg will have the chance to be salvaged before the site is developed. This is an important aspect, because for the kiln project I have been working on there have been too many salvaged collections where the kiln wasn't found, or part of the collection was discarded, or only half of the site was able to excavated. As I tell people, for the thousands of potters we know were operating in America's history, the likely less than 200 kiln sites that have been saved/salvaged in earthenware and stoneware should be a sign of how important these sites and collections are.(Note: there has not been a comprehensive list of all of the excavated/salvaged/explored sites in America made. It would be really fun to compile, but probably a nightmare to try and locate where they are housed! Or depressing to know that they were thrown out -trust me on that one. I have seen over 30 stoneware sites in my project and a lot of other earthenware and mixed sites along the way). You can read more about the Fredericksburg site on the Fredericksburg News Desk link. The above smattering of fragments tells me so much exciting information that I cannot wait to see what else surfaces.
Francis Bell advertisement for opening a stoneware manufactory. From article:

One of the most interesting aspects of this small collection from the site is the bisqued handle in the lower center section of the photo.The kiln sites I have seen in Virginia have had more bisque stoneware than the other sites I have seen elsewhere. I hope to explore this more someday, but I think it comes from the fact that several of those sites were making both earthenware and stoneware, and they created a great balance of their one kiln with the production of both materials. In the spring I am thinking to fire a load of earthenware in my salt kiln just to see what happens with the salt vapors and if the temperature will stay low enough so as not to create as much off-gassing. It could have also been from a very cool spot in the kiln, but if there is a lot of bisque ware coming out of the site, I think that will be a different story.
 Let's be hopeful that those salvaging the site are given ample time to perhaps find the kiln and collect as much material as they can! And that they save EVERYTHING because the importance of the object may not be noticeable until it is being cleaned and processed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Decorating at Market

On Saturdays we are at the Greensboro Curb Farmer's Market with our farm, Emmaus Farm, and with pottery. Yesterday, because I am trying to wrap things up for a kiln firing next weekend, I took pots with me to market to decorate. It is always fun to show people that the slip I use is made with cobalt carbonate, which looks pink when I paint it on. Then to show them the blue color that it could turn in the kiln tends to make their eyes light up. If  you are in the area on Saturdays, be sure to stop by the Curb Market between 6:00 am and 12:00 pm to visit, check out our freshly ground wheat from our farm, and other available produce! Broccoli will be in soon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Back side of the bird's feet  on edge of pot
Dan Finnegan sometimes experiences animals or insects eating on his pots in his studio. While I have (knock on wood) not had any nibbling mice or invasive insects, I did come back to one of my pots after lunch today and found two sets of footprints on one of my pots from what I presume was a bird hopping from one side to the other. It left a rather intriguing pattern on the rim!
Not a great photo (sorry) of both sets of prints across from one another on the rim

Front of bird's feet - see the three toe marks?
Yesterday I picked up some wood in the truck and while driving home looked in my rear view mirror to see a small lizard running very quickly up the pile of wood to the cab and then fluttering in the wind, hanging on for dear life.
Lizard transported in the wood pile
I assumed he may have met his demise by being picked up by the wind, but received a photo from my other half today showing that unless another similar looking reptile had taken up residence, it was still alive and well in the pile of wood!

Guinness, our chocolate lab, enjoying "cuddle time" in the chair (he has some sensory issues that need met every so often)
And then there's our not-so-wild life at the house including this 85 pound chocolate lab who decided it was a good idea this afternoon to spend time barking at me through the window while I was on the porch. He also peaks through the curtain while I wedge clay and generally keeps an eye on me, but the barking today was a little much.
This is what "cuddle time" really looks like because Guinness spends most of it wallowing in the chair